American bandleader Glenn Miller was the superstar of his era. From a modest start he became one of the best-selling artists of his time. 81 years ago this month he was awarded the the first gold record for his single “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” Despite his wealth and fame, the attack on Pearl Harbor inspired him to join the U.S. armed forces where he supported the war effort through his music. His tragic disappearance over the English Channel on December 15, 1944, remains one of World War II’s unsolved mysteries. Over nearly a century his music has touched people and inspired musicians.
His “Chattanooga Choo Choo” lends to this week’s music blog theme, songs about US cities and states.
Songs on the list either contain a city or state in their title, or featured prominently in their lyrics. Songs range from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “Hotel California,” “Hollywood Nights,” “Midnight Train To Georgia,” “Sweet Home Chicago,” “Please Come To Boston,” “Carolina In My Mind”, “Philadelphia Freedom,” “Walking In Memphis,” “Graceland,” “El Paso,” of course “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” and the playlist’s title song “New York State Of Mind.” There are some songs that don’t have a city or state in their title, but feature a city or state prominently in their lyrics, such as “Dancing In The Streets” (multiple: Chicago, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, WDC, Detroit), “Take It Easy” (Winslow, Arizona), “Rock ‘N Me” (Phoenix, Arizona, Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A.), “Rocky Mountain High” (Colorado), “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (Chicago), “Dirty Water” and “Rock & Roll Band” (Boston), and “Deacon Blues” (Alabama), among others.
Some great videos of songs feature on the playlist include:
So the playlist opens with Martha Reeves & The Vandellas “Dancing In The Streets.” While many artists have covered this classic song from the 60s, this version, released for the first time at the Live Aid Concert I attended in Philadelphia in 1986, is so quintessentially 80s:
Stepping back a decade, this song epitomizes southern California folk rock of the 70s. Co-written by Eagles Glen Frey and roommate Jackson Browne, it was the Eagles first release.
The story behind the song is worth a read:
Continuing on in the mellow 70s with one of my favorite Billy Joel songs “You’re My Home.” Billy was my first concert, and I’ve since seen him several times more, including a college tour as well as performing with Elton John.
And back to the 60s with The Mamas & The Papas signature song “California Dreamin’”:
And back to the 70s with one of the biggest hits of the decade, “Hotel California”:
This fan made video of “L.A. Woman” is a great insight into The Doors as well as the 60s and 70s:
And while the video is poor, it’s still worth a watch to see Johnny Carson at the helm of The Tonight Show in the early 70s introducing John Denver, singing “Rocky Mountain High,” such memories from my childhood:
And a bit better preserved performance of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”:
And bouncing to the 90s for one of my favorite city songs, Marc Cohn’s “Walking In Memphis”:
And I can’t pass up a chance to give props to one of my favorite American Idol alums, Crystal Bowersox. I’ve seen her a few times, and she never disappoints. Here is a “double shot” of Crystal:
Crystal reminds me of Bonnie Raitt, a blues rock goddess here singing “Angel From Montgomery”:
And while not the version included in the playlist, this cover of “Sweet Home Chicago” is pretty ridiculous, with rock and blues guitar royalty, including Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Hubert Sumlin, Robert Cray, and John Mayer:
Here is my Uncle Joey performing in San Diego with his band The Hip Replacements covering “Viva Las Vegas”:
And closing out the set is Billy Joel’s “New York State Of Mind,” doing his best to write a Ray Charles sort of lounge singer standard:
So let these songs take you around the country on a musical journey. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew. Rediscover the passion of music in your life.
Live in the moment.
Enjoy the moment.
Love the moment.
Listen to the MUSIC!